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Call for end to Scotland training for Sri Lanka police over alleged human rights violations

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Police Scotland must stop training Sri Lankan officers if allegations of state-sanctioned torture are confirmed, according to the UN investigator behind an excoriating report into alleged human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, says a report published by The Sunday Post of Scotland yesterday.

The report says: “Professor Manfred Nowak, a former United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights, called for Holyrood to launch an inquiry into the claims of police brutality made by refugees fleeing Sri Lanka for Scotland.

“If their claims are established, he said, Scotland’s national force must end its controversial training of Sri Lankan police and special units.

“Police Scotland insists its international training improves world policing but critics fear the force has been naive to work with the government in Colombo while its tacit endorsement is helping whitewash the torture, abduction and murder of ethnic minority Tamils, the report said.

“The long-standing police training programme – which has involved Sri Lankan officers, including some later linked to systemic torture, being trained at Police Scotland’s Tulliallan HQ and Scots officers travelling to Colombo – is currently in limbo while being reviewed by the Foreign Office.”

MSP Mercedes Villalba has now written to the British High Commission in Sri Lanka voicing concern that Police Scotland’s training of Sri Lankan police has gifted the Colombo regime “an unwarranted legitimacy” and is “a smokescreen for human rights abuses”.

“Yesterday, Nowak, a leading human rights lawyer and secretary general of the Global Campus of Human Rights, said it was alarming that torture techniques he exposed for the UN in 2007 are allegedly still being used and he urged Police Scotland to instigate a criminal investigation into the claims of refugees from Sri Lanka.

“He told The Post: “The Scottish Parliament should hold an inquiry and Police Scotland must investigate these allegations of torture and participate with the police in Sri Lanka to prosecute the perpetrators.

“If Sri Lanka does not co-operate or seek to prosecute, then this matter should be brought before the international courts as cases have been in the past.”

“He said the testimonies of torture victims who have fled to Scotland in fear of their lives were strikingly similar to the allegation he uncovered in Sri Lanka 14 years ago: “The use of practices such as hanging victims from their limbs, or even their fingers, was something I encountered, as was the use of plastic bags with petrol.

“If there is evidence which shows these practices are being used by the police in Sri Lanka, then Police Scotland need to step away from any future training programmes.”

MSPs have backed Nowak’s call for a parliamentary inquiry. Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton echoed his concerns and said: “Any continuation of the training arrangement Police Scotland has with Sri Lanka brings us worryingly close to a complicit relationship with people who we now know are committing torture and rape on an industrial scale.

“I very much want to hear from these torture victims and support calls for an inquiry by our Justice Committee and a police investigation.”

:Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary Pauline McNeill said: “It’s vitally important victims of torture and human rights abuses know we are watching and listening.

“I believe we will have strong cross-party support for Scotland to take a stance against these human rights violations.”

Nowak’s remarks were welcomed by human rights campaigners. Marion Pallister, of peace movement Pax Christi Scotland, said: “We hope this may be the first move towards getting justice for Sri Lanka’s torture victims.”

Frances Harrison, of the International Truth and Justice Project, said: “If Scotland took these groundbreaking steps they would lead the way across the world by showing the perpetrators of torture cannot escape their crimes.

“A parliamentary inquiry would act as a beacon of light to the thousands of victims of torture who live in silence and fear around the world, and send an important message to Sri Lanka that their actions will not be tolerated.”

In February Amnesty International published a damning report detailing how Sri Lankan government officials repeatedly attacked and targeted human rights campaigners, lawyers representing families of the disappeared and political opponents.

“Naomi McAuliffe, director of Amnesty International UK Scotland said: “We have asked to see evidence that Police Scotland takes human rights into consideration before entering into any overseas training agreement and have received no assurances.

“There has to be consideration not only of whether overseas forces have been involved in human rights abuses but how Police Scotland’s involvement might contribute towards helping other forces to conceal or downplay their human rights atrocities.”



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Collective Cabinet responsibility won’t be at country’s expense

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Udaya: We are ready to face consequences of revolting against backdoor Yugadanavi deal

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila says that in spite of being members of the Cabinet, he along with National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa and Democratic Left Front (DLF) leader Vasudeva Nanayakkara, have supported the petitions filed against the government entering into a framework agreement with US-based New Fortress Energy in respect of Yugadanavi Power Plant, etc., as they strongly felt that collective Cabinet responsibility should not be at the expense of national security.

Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Attorney-at-Law Gammanpila emphasised they had challenged the Cabinet over the controversial agreement following careful examination of what he called a politically charged situation.

The Colombo District MP said that they were ready to face the consequences of legal measures they had resorted to. Minister Gammanpila said so in response to The Island query whether they could continue as members of the Cabinet after having objected to an international agreement, finalised by the government.

Gammanpila said that they had never tried to hide their intentions and they felt embarrassed by the way some in the government manipulated the very process that was meant to ensure transparency and accountability.

Treasury Secretary S.R. Attygalle, on behalf of the government, entered into an agreement with New Fortress Energy, a company listed in the NASDAQ, on July 7, 2021, two days after Cabinet decided on the matter.

Gammanpila said they had tried to settle the issue at the Cabinet level and at the government parliamentary group. “Finally, we were left with no alternative but to denounce the New

Fortress deal and then throw our weight behind those who moved the Supreme Court against it,” Minister Gammanpila said.
The SLPP repeatedly demanded that whatever the issue the constituents should settle it within the government parliamentary group and the Cabinet.
Minister Weerawansa told Parliament on 11 November that an Attorney-at-Law would represent the trio at the Supreme Court proceedings.
Responding to another query, Minister Gammanpila questioned the rationale behind bringing in a company that hadn’t been involved in the tender process in respect of a high profile project involving the West Coast Power Limited (WCPL). The minister said that the US firm had spurned the tender process as it received an assurance as regards the contract.

The US government pushed for the deal meant to secure 40 percent shares of the WCPL at a cost of USD 250 mn, Minister Gammanpila said.
The Cabinet memorandum as regards the sale of WCPL shares, in addition to the floating storage regasification unit, mooring system and the pipelines and the supply of LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) is dated 06 Sept., 2021, months after Sri Lanka entered into FA with New Fortress Energy.

Asked whether the NFF, PHU and DLF would receive the support of other parties including the SLFP, Minister Gammanpila said that those who had pledged support for their cause remained committed and confident.

In addition to the NFF, PHU and DLF with a combined strength of eight MPs, the grouping against the New Fortress deal included the SLFP (14 members), CP (1 MP), Yuthukama (2 members) and Tiran Alles. Over two dozen elected and appointed members of the SLPP are against the New Fortress deal.

Of the smaller constituents in the government, the MEP (Mahajana Eksath Peramuna) has distanced itself from the campaign against the energy deal.
Minister Gammanpila said that in his current capacity as the energy minister he had been compelled to struggle against the energy project as it posed a threat to the country. Referring to the then President Ranasinghe Premadasa sacking ministers, Lalith Athulathmudali, Gamini Dissanayaka and G.M. Premachandra in 1991, Minister Gammanpila said that the UNPers sought the Supreme Court intervention. The SC ruled that in case ministers had been deprived of an opportunity to discuss some matter at the cabinet, they could do so with the public, Gammanpila said, adding that they pursued a strategy based on that SC position.

Minister Gammanpila said that Sri Lanka couldn’t afford to create a foreign monopoly in the gas supply to the country. The situation would be far worse as the proposed monopoly would be American, Gammanpila said, noting that in spite of entering into a spate of other agreements with foreign partners under controversial circumstances, the incumbent government seemed to have perpetrated an unpardonable act.

Minister Gammanpila said that the US energy deal would deliver a knockout blow to Sri Lanka’s efforts to tap gas in the Mannar seas. The consequence of this arrangement would be far reaching and devastating as far as Sri Lanka was concerned, the minister said. If the New Fortress deal was carried pit. Sri Lanka wouldn’t be able to bring in other investors to extract gas from the Mannar basin, the minister said.

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State and private sector union members on sick leave demanding Rs 10,000 pay hike

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Protesting workers blocking the entrance to the Presidential Secretariat yesterday morning (pic by Nishan S. Priyantha)

Members of several state, semi-government and private sector trade unions took sick leave yesterday (08) as part of their trade union struggle to win a number of demands including a 10,000-rupee pay hike and the cancellation of the questionable New Fortresss deal.

Unions of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), the Ports Authority and Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) have pledged solidarity with the protesting workers.
The unions held demonstrations near the Parliament Roundabout and the Fort Railway Station.

They opposed the government decision to raise the retirement age to 65.
“There are over 25,000 postal workers and about 80% of them have joined the union action. This is the case in other sectors too,” President of Sri Lanka Postal Services Union Chinthaka Bandara said.

He demanded that the government increase their salaries through the budget 2022. “Otherwise, we will resort to sterner trade union action. The cost of living has gone through the roof and the Central Bank has admitted that inflation has risen sharply. Most companies in the private sector have reduced the salaries of employees and the allowances in the government sector too have been slashed. People will have to starve at this rate, “Bandara said. (RK)

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Contaminated fertiliser: Case to be taken up on May 09

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By Ifham Nizam and Chitra Weerarathne

The Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ)’s lawsuit to stop unloading here of allegedly contaminated organic fertiliser, CA WRIT 476/2 was taken up yesterday before Court of Appeal Justices Achala Wengappuli and Dhammika Ganepola.

Taking the facts into account the Court ordered that the case be recalled on May 9, 2021.

At a previous hearing the court questioned the Attorney General whether the Government was in a position to assure that they would not allow the controversial load of fertiliser to be unloaded. In response to that request Deputy Solicitor General Nirmalan Wigneswaran, who appeared on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture informed the Court yesterday that the vessel carrying the controversial fertilizer belonging to the Chinese company has left Sri Lankan maritime space.

Senior Counsel Ravindranath Dabare, Ms Nilmal Wickramasinghe (AAL) and Ms Thushini Jayasekara (AAL) appeared for the petitioners on the instructions of Ms. Samadhi Hansani Premasiri (AAL).

In the petition. CEJ argued that organic fertiliser from any country could not be imported into Sri Lanka, under any circumstance, according to the regulations of the Plant Protection Ordinance imposed in 1981 and Plant Protection Act No. 35 of 1999 as it prohibit the import of soil particles, living organisms, any virus, bacteria or fungus cultures into the country, given that organic manure/compost is made of decomposing animal and plant parts, which could consist of pathogens.
However, when the samples collected from this controversial shipment were tested Sri Lankan authorities found harmful organisms. As a result, National Plant Quarantine Service did not issue any import permit particularly for this bulk stock of so called “Organic Fertilizer”, the petitioner pointed out.

It also said that based on those facts the Director General of Agriculture had issued a letter dated 22.10.2021, addressing the Chairman, Sri Lanka Port Authority, requesting him to prevent the berth of the vessel carrying this stock of Fertilizer at the Colombo Port and not to discharge any of its organic fertilizer into the Sri Lankan territory claiming it carried a huge phytosanitary risk to Sri Lanka.

In addition to this Ceylon Fertilizer Company also obtained an enjoining order (on 22.10.2021) from the Commercial High Court of Colombo against Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co. Ltd; the supplier and the People’s Bank, preventing the latter from making any payment under the Letter of Credit opened in favour of Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co. Ltd which has entered into a contract with Ceylon Fertilizer Company.

However, in spite of all these Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co. Ltd officially informed The Director General of Agriculture that its consignment of fertilizer which was shipped from China on 29th September 2021 would reach Sri Lanka as scheduled.

The Center for Environmental Justice therefore had to file an urgent motion CA WRIT 476/21 on (25.10.2021) to prevent the stock of fertilizer from entering the country owing to political or public pressure.

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